Around the end of November / beginning of December, the “Klees’chen” (cf picture below) can be seen on many occasions as he comes to all the shops, and receives the children for photosessions. Legend has it that “Klees’chen” brought back to life 3 children who were savagely killed by a butcher, ready to be turned into sausages. Being a good-natured children-loving sort of a guy, he promptly resurrected the kids with God’s allmighty help …
“Klees’chen”, in fact, is none else but St. Nicholas. During the night of the 5th to the 6th December (his day) he and his counterpart “Hoùseker” (=Black Peter) enter the houses and bring the children presents in the guise of (originally oranges and nuts and the occasional pair of socks) toys which can range from simple Lego to complex computers. The children put out plates on which the legendary figures bestow their gifts. But already days, nay weeks beforehand the children put their shoes daily on the windowsill or in front of their bedroom door, so that “Kleeschen” -who goes his rounds to check on children to see whether they deserve any presents- can drop chocolates and other sweets into them. Hoùseker is dressed in coarse black clothes and he carries sticks with which he is said to chastise naughty children.
On the afternoon of the first Sunday preceeding December 6th, “Klees’chen” (and “Hoùseker”) arrive in town (at the railway station) and dole out sweets to kids on their parade to the City Town Hall (cf picture below)
As for Christmas itself, you can see that with “Klees’chen” around, Father Christmas has a lot of rivalry. In Luxembourg, the baby Christ is said to bring the Christmas gifts overnight, although the custom probably differs from family to family. In the early evening on Christmas Eve the whole family gathers around the Christmas tree for snacks and talks (A Christmas tree is almost a Must in our country). At midnight many a family goes to Midnight Mass, always a welcome excuse for children to stay up long. The presents which lie under the tree are opened either before or after church.
Since we have our own language in Luxembourg (Lëtzebuergesch), we say “Schéi Chrëschtdeeg” for “Merry Christmas”, which transliterates into ‘have nice christmas-days’.
Traditional foods over the Christmas period are “Stollen”, a kind of fruit loaf with rum as cake and “Bûche de Noël” as icecream (both are in the shape of a log). On Christmas Day the traditional dinner often features Black pudding or civet of hare, or venison, or …, but it may also consist of turkey like in Britain or the States (The main thing seems to be that there must be millions of calories). After the meal the whole family likes to go for a walk which is particularly nice if there is snow. Boxing Day is spent in a similar fashion, eg eating vast quantities of food, which is done -more often than not- whilst visiting friends and relatives.
During the weeks before Christmas, markets flourish all over the country. From wooden huts that are set up on town and city squares, all sorts of christmassy goods are on sale: locally produced arts and crafts (candles, Christmas trees and decorations, cribs, music, etc), and of course plenty of food and drink to warm you from the inside. The latter include the obligatory mulled wines, as well as the stronger stuff (eg Schnaps, known as “Drëpp”). Foods on sale include various soups (with or without Mettwurscht [a local sausage speciality]), pancakes, Thüringer, … , plus the unpronounceable: “Gromperekichelcher”. The bandstand in the centre of the square is also very much in use: A whole host of local bands, fanfares, choirs, etc, are performing, bringing to life the true Christmas atmosphere.
Christmas Markets in Luxembourg City will be as follows:
From November 26 to December 24, the “Christmas Market” will be held on Place d’Armes in the pedestrian centre of the city. (open daily from 10 am till about 7 pm; and finishes about 5 pm on Christmas Eve)
Advent Market on the Place de Paris: November 26 to December 24
(opening times as above, though this is a much smaller market than the “Christmas Market”)
More info on the Luxembourg City Christmas markets will be at www.winterlights.lu
Several more Christmas markets are held in towns and villages throughout the country.
More info on Christmas Markets throughout the country is also at: ont.lu
Several “Shopping Sundays” are usually programmed before Christmas.
Shops will be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Luxembourg City on the following Sundays: June 27, August 29, October 24, December 5, 12 and 19. (i.e. all Sundays in December before Christmas) Details should appear on www.winterlights.lu or if you are able to read Fench you might like to look up www.cityshopping.lu
New Year is very much celebrated on New Year’s Eve. There are a good dozen different “Bal”s (=dancing) in Luxembourg-city, and many more outside the capital. Around midnight, fireworks reign supreme in the skies, as many a family adds to the general bangs and flashes. We don’t so much sing “Auld Lang Syne”, ‘though of course some gatherings do. The New Year itself is brought in by champagne corks mixing into the general fireworks clatter. There is a lot of kissing and hugging amongst the well-wishing for the New Year, which is of course at midnight sharp.
There is hardly anybody who would not socialise on New Year’s Eve, and if there is no family to go to, you can always join one of the dancing crowds, or join one of the many parties that are held all over the country. In fact it often is quite difficult to choose which party to go to, as there are so many, and as one does want to be with the nicest possible crowd on this first night of the New Year. Hence, many a reveller will not decide where to go to until all the options have been heard and offered, which may not be until late in the afternoon of the 31st of December.
The dancings are mostly organised by University students, and even though there is now a ‘native’ university in Luxembourg, the students from major Universities abroad traditionally tend to organise these. Thus there is a “Bal de Liège”, a “Bal de Strasbourg”, a “Bal de Zurich”, and others. These go on to the wee hours of the morning (5 or 6 am) and a number of cafés (that is the continental version of the pub, not the English eating houses) are open this late too, whereas others might have closed at say 10 pm, but are opening again at 6 am, so you really can revel around the clock.